From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Why There Are Still Ashtrays in Airplane Bathrooms

Someone has finally answered the question we all didn’t know we wanted to ask.


Back to Life


Back to Life

Food writer, visual artist, and “Salad for President” creator Julia Sherman...

Into the Wild at a British Columbia Resort


Into the Wild at a British Columbia Resort

Tucked away in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest, Nimmo Bay offers both adventure and...

A Sleek Projector to Conjure Movie Theater Nostalgia


A Sleek Projector to Conjure Movie Theater Nostalgia

Whether it’s in your backyard or living room, Anker’s Nebula Capsule is a portable...

It's been 28 years since the federal government banned smoking on US domestic flights (most international airplanes following suit shortly thereafter). And yet, take a look around on your next plane ride: there's an ashtray in the lavatory. And according to a resurfaced Business Insider article, those ashtrays aren’t just vestiges on outdated airplanes.

Ashtrays are actually part of the Federal Aviation Administration's minimum equipment list— to fly, an airplane must have an ashtray.

Airlines are afraid that despite the countless “no smoking” signs and announcements, some badly behaved passenger will light up anyway—and toss the cigarette into the paper-filled wastebasket.

Turns out, the FAA isn’t just being a big worrywart. In 1973, Varig Flight 820 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris ended in tragedy when a major fire started near the bathroom, a blaze supposedly stemming from a lit cigarette tossed into the lavatory trash. Almost everyone onboard died of smoke inhalation before the plane could make an emergency landing.

To this we say, please do not ignore the illuminated signs, captain's announcements, and illustrated warnings. There are more than a handful of good reasons not to smoke on an airplane (and yes, electronic cigarettes count, too). But if you must break the law, please dispose of the evidence in the bathroom ashtray.


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.